You’ve heard all those nail salon horror stories about fungal infections, ingrown toenails and beaten-up cuticles — but you’ve never heard any quite as sickening as this.
Experts believe many nail salon workers are smuggled into the UK illegally by organised gangs of human traffickers — and forced to work in salons controlled by the criminal trafficking rings. These women, many of whom are Vietnamese, are made to work as “virtual slaves” during the day; then, at night, they’re sometimes forced to work as prostitutes or in the drug trade, the Daily Mail reports.
In the US, too, links between nail salons and human trafficking have emerged. In Ohio, a “multi-million dollar” human trafficking scheme operating out of nail salons was uncovered by 2010; Under that scheme, immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries were allegedly given laundered false identities and forced to work as “indentured servants”, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Other shocking allegations of slave-like nail salon conditions have emerged in California, as well as in Pennsylvania, where two women trafficked illegally from Vietnam were allegedly exploited in a “debt bondage” arrangement: they were forced to work in a nail salon, but every cent they made went back to their employers to pay for a pillow, blanket, and a bed in her home. Investigators say the women’s employer even forced them to get married so they could continue to live in the country as slaves, according to 6ABC.
Anti-Slavery International’s trafficking programme coordinator, Klara Skrivankova, says the false “promise of legitimate work is a typical ruse used by traffickers” to tempt women into these horrifying situations.
“Nail bars and beauty salons can also be the location of modern slavery as people are forced to pay back spurious debts to their traffickers,” she told Juliette Astrup in an article for the British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology.
“People often assume that trafficking only relates to forced prostitution, but people are also routinely trafficked into forced labour. Some will be forced to work during the day, in plain sight of the public, and in the evening they will be forced into prostitution.”
Frigteningly, Australia is not immune from these forms of exploitation.